Nigeria, donor agencies battle malnutrition in North east

Gloria Essien, Abuja.

The Nigerian government has been urged to urgently address the issue of malnutrition in  north eastern Nigeria.

This was the conclusion of donor agencies at a media briefing on “Increasing Coverage of Basic Nutrition Services to Save Lives of Children in the North.

The Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who chaired the briefing said that the Nigerian government is partnering with donor agencies to eliminate malnutrition in the affected states.

She said “it was estimated that there are about 350,373 children with severe acute malnutrition and 182,804 malnourished pregnant and lactating women in Borno and Yobe in 2016 in the two states. About one in five of these will die if nothing is done.  About 183,000 pregnant and lactating women are also malnourished.”

The minister noted that the government couldn’t do it alone, hence the collaboration with international agencies.

“The Federal Government through the FMOH in June this year declared a nutrition emergency in the region to accelerate efforts to address the nutritional crisis in the region. Following this there has been increased efforts by government to tackle the nutrition challenge. Therefore we are pleased with the initiative of the DFID to introduce the Integrated Basic Nutrition Response for Humanitarian Crisis project for Borno and Yobe states to complement the efforts of government. The proposed project is based on an integrated approach to improve food and nutrition security in the two States,” Mrs. Ahmed said.

The minister also noted that with  the increasing success of the Nigerian army, more areas were becoming accessible with a resultant increase in the number of malnourished people many of whom are women and children.

The minister said that “on our part, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning will continue to support the governments of Borno and Yobe states to effectively coordinate the humanitarian efforts as well as ensure that all Nigerians in the affected areas especially women and children are reached with the basic services. I am confident that this initiative will contribute immensely to the overall humanitarian efforts and that the states of Borno and Yobe will ensure that the gains of the initiative are sustained beyond the 3 years”.

The Borno state commissioner for Health, Dr. Haruna Mshelia, says malnutrition is reducing as most families are utilising the stipends given by government.

He said that government pays seventeen thousand naira to affected families to assist them in battling malnutrition.

“Most of the women in those families are utilising the money properly by using it to establish small businesses. By doing that, they don’t only feed their families, they also generate more income,” Dr. Mshelia noted.

The Yobe state commissioner for Health, Dr. Muhammad Kakuwa, said the malnutrition situation in the state was worsened by insurgency.

He pointed out that the state appreciates the efforts of the federal government and international agencies who are assisting affected families in the state.

Mr. Ben Mellor of the UK DFID, said a lot still needs to be done to prevent unnecessary deaths in children under five years in the north eastern part of Nigeria.

He said that the Nigerian government has the responsibility to lead humanitarian services in north eastern part of the country.

Mr. Mellor said that “if urgent steps are not taken, Nigeria stand the risk of losing a hundred and eighty four children per day to malnutrition”.

On his part, the Chief Nutrition of UNICEF, Mr. Arjan de Wagt, said that the malnutrition situation was still bad and more action wa needed particularly in Borno and Yobe state.

The £16m emergency malnutrition project is expected to deliver high impact nutrition services to women and children over a period of three years through existing Primary Healthcare structures.

At the end of the project, almost 60,000 children under 5 with Severe Acute Malnutrition would have been enrolled and treated in the two states.

The project is to be delivered through a consortium of partners including UNICEF, Action Against Hunger (AAH) and UN World Food Programme(WFP).

The DFID funded Integrated Basic Nutrition Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in Borno and Yobe States is for the benefit of children and Women.